Chancellor Angela Merkel has again appealed for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict on a visit to Ottawa. Prime Minister Harper said he would welcome such a breakthrough, but questioned Russia's readiness.
Angela Merkel reiterated her objection to arming Ukraine's military in Ottawa on Monday, hours aftercalling for a diplomatic solution to the conflict
in talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington.
"I hope that we shall be able to solve this conflict by diplomatic means," Merkel said in a press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "I believe that it cannot be solved militarily."
Merkel's trip to Canada and the US was preceded by an unexpected diplomacy drive on the Ukraine conflict late last week with presidents Francois Hollande of France, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine. These talks are currently set to continue on Wednesday in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.
"We will see over the next few days whether there will be progress. That is anything but certain," Merkel said of the talks. "Now we should put all of our efforts into the question: 'Can we find a diplomatic solution?' I'm very grateful that both the American president and the Canadian prime minister support us in this endeavor."
Europe's diplomatic drive with the Kremlin is being billed as a last-ditch effort to head off further sanctions against Russia
Harper hopeful, if dubious
The US has recently mooted the idea of providing military assistance to Ukraine's armed forces, in the event that diplomatic efforts to defuse the conflict fail. Germany has repeatedly voiced opposition to this idea. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen recently told DW that it would likely result in Russia sending arms to separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.
Prime Minister Harper said that he would like to see the Russian president demonstrate the same dedication to a diplomatic solution in Ukraine. After voicing admiration for the efforts of France and Germany to find a peaceful path out of the conflict, he said that "unfortunately at this time Mr. Putin has rejected diplomatic means. He seems to move his agenda through military violence."
Roughly 1 million people of Ukrainian descent live in Canada. Harper made headlines at last November's G20 summit in Australia for a somewhat acrimonious handshake with Putin in which he reportedly said: "You need to get out of Ukraine."
Free trade deal, Greek debt also on agenda
Both leaders voiced support for the pending trade deal between the European Union and Canada, signed last year but awaiting ratification by the European Council and the European Parliament. Merkel called the agreement a "good opportunity for our economy" at a time of low growth in Germany and across the eurozone.
Harper urged all involved to make the agreement a reality, saying that this would be an important statement given the economic uncertainty in many developed countries. The prime minister called the deal "the kind of positive news that the world needs to see, and the kind of commitment to trade they need to see from major Western countries."
On the topic of economic uncertainty, Merkel also briefed Harper on developments in Greece.
"Germany's politics are focused around keeping Greece within the eurozone," Merkel said, adding that if she understood matters correctly, the majority of the Greek population harbored the same desire.
Authorities in Brussels were now waiting on concrete proposals from Greece on how to proceed, Merkel said. Harper expressed his "utmost confidence" in Merkel's appraisal of the situation.
Merkel returns to Germany on Tuesday, before moving on to Minsk on Wednesday for the next round of four-way talks on the conflict in Ukraine.
msh/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)